10 Health Benefits of the Superfood: Beets
While looking at a picture of a beet not too long ago, I thought to myself, “Isn’t it odd that I know what a beet is but I’ve never actually seen one.”
It’s quite a shame that I’d gone my life until that point without just picking up a beet in the produce aisle, because it turns out I was missing out on something great!
Beets have been featured throughout history for a variety of benefits.
They had their origins in North Africa, Europe, and Asia, but originally it was not the red bulb that caught people’s attention.
Most ate just the greens, and it wasn’t until Napoleon’s rule that the red root itself became popular for its sweetness.
When sugar cane was unavailable, beets were the top choice.
Why are Beets Good for You?
1. They lower blood pressure.
Beets have been shown to contain a ton of nitrates, which turn into nitric oxide once your body gets hold of them.
This relaxes your blood vessels, allowing them to carry blood better and receive more beneficial oxygen.
2. They help you detox.
Beets are one of the best foods for cleansing your body, because the betalin pigment in their fibers grabs heavy metals and other toxins, shuffling them out of your body.
Your liver—the organ that deals with toxins in your body—is a big fan of beets.
3. Increase in Stamina and Athletic Performance.
Beets have been shown to increase endurance, so if you’re in need of a boost before your workout, this red root is the way to go.
Your body will use oxygen better and have the energy to really benefit from exercise or hard work.
4. Impressive Nutritional Content for Small Amount of Calories.
Beets have an impressive nutritional profile. Beets are loaded with vitamins and minerals while being low in calories.
High in vitamins and minerals while being low in calories. In fact, they contain a bit of almost all the vitamins and minerals that you need.
Here is an overview of the nutrients found in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked beetroot:
- Calories: 44
- Protein: 1.7 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Vitamin C: 6% of the RDI
- Folate: 20% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 3% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 6% of the RDI
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI
- Phosphorous: 4% of the RDI
- Manganese: 16% of the RDI
- Iron: 4% of the RDI
Beets also contain inorganic nitrates and pigments, both of which are plant compounds that have a number of health benefits.
5. May Help Fight Inflammation
Many chronic diseases are associated with inflammation including obesity, heart disease, liver disease and cancer.
Beets contain pigments called betalains, which may potentially possess a number of anti-inflammatory properties.
Another study with osteoarthritis showed that betalain capsules made with beetroot extract reduced pain and discomfort associated with the condition.
6. May Improve Digestive Health
Dietary fiber is an important component of a healthy diet, especially for improved digestion. Fiber bypasses digestion and enters the colon, where it either feeds the friendly gut bacteria or adds bulk to stool.
Beetroot is a good source of fiber. One cup of beetroot contains 3.4 grams of fiber, making beets a good fiber source.
7. May Help Support Brain Health
Mental and cognitive function naturally decline with age.
For some, this decline is significant and may result in conditions like dementia.
A reduction in blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain may contribute to this decline.
Interestingly, the nitrates in beets may improve cognitive function by promoting the dilation of blood vessels which in turn increases blood flow to the brain.
Beets have been shown to particularly improve blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, an area associated with higher level thinking.
Furthermore, one study looked at the effect of beets on cognitive function using reaction time for people with diabetes.
Simple reaction time during a computer-based cognitive function test was 4% faster in those who consumed 8.5 ounces (250 ml) of beetroot juice daily for two weeks, compared to the placebo.
However, whether beets could be used in a clinical setting to improve brain function and reduce the risk of dementia remains to be seen.
8. May Have Some Anti-Cancer Properties
Cancer is a serious and potentially fatal disease characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells.
The antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory nature of beets have led to an interest in its ability to prevent cancer.
Beetroot extract has been shown to reduce the growth of tumor cells in animals.
One test-tube study using human cells found that beetroot extract, which is high in betalain pigments, reduced the growth of prostate and breast cancer cells.
It is important to note that these studies were performed in isolated human cells and animals. Proper human trials are needed to conclude beets role in beating cancer.
9. May Help You Lose Weight
Beets nutritional profile might make them good for weigh loss.
- Beets are high in water content and low in calories
- Increasing fruits and vegetables have been positively correlated with losing weight.
- Beets contain a moderate amount of fiber and protein which is vital for losing weight and keeping it off!
- Beets make you feel full by reducing appetite with low calories and high water profile.
Beets have several nutritional properties that should make them good for weight loss.
First, beets are low in calories and high in water.
Increasing your intake of low-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables has been associated with weight loss.
The fiber in beets may also help promote weight loss by reducing appetite and promoting feelings of fullness, thereby reducing overall calorie intake.
10. And they are delicious!
Technically this is not a health benefit but it is true. Australia uses beets on hamburgers, sandwiches and sometimes just serves it raw with other food.
Not only are beets nutritious, but they are also incredibly delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet.
Beets can be juiced, roasted, steamed or pickled. Also, they can be bought precooked and canned for convenience.
Choose beets that are heavy for their size with fresh, unwilted green leafy tops still attached.
Dietary nitrates are water soluble, so it is best to avoid boiling beets to maximize their nitrate content.
Here are some delicious and interesting ways to add more beets to your diet:
- Beetroot salad: Grated for coleslaw or sliced in salads
- Beetroot juice: Fresh beetroot juice is best, as store-bought juice can be high in added sugars.
- Beetroot leaves: Beet leaves can be cooked and enjoyed like spinach, so don’t throw them out. The leaves, like carrots, are delicious!
We’ve barely scratched the surface of benefits you can reap from consuming beets. Whether you like them raw, baked, or even pickled, beets are definitely a great addition to your diet. But how do you know which beets to pick out when you’re browsing the produce aisle?
How Do You Choose Beets?
Look for beets without cuts, bruises, or wrinkles. They tend to grow into a pleasing, symmetrically round shape, so avoid oddly formed ones.
Hard or Soft?
Beets should be very hard, so opt for those that are still crisp and have not begun to go soft.
Leaves or No Leaves?
Sometimes, suppliers will cut the leaves off of beets before they make it to the shelf. If that’s the case, make sure that at least half an inch of stem remains or else you’ll just cook out all the good stuff in the beet. If leaves have been left on, opt for crisp, dark green bunches.
The taproot, or the big root sticking out of the bottom of the beet, should be thin and at least two inches long. If you choose a beet with a thick root, it’s more likely to be woody and much less sweet.
Beets are an often overlooked health powerhouse easily accessible in the produce aisle. Definitely consider adding them to your diet in a variety of ways (and just think of the beautiful color they add to dishes!). Remember that after you buy your beets, they’ll stay good for about 10 days in the fridge as long as you’ve left at least an inch of stem after you remove the leaves. That gives you plenty of time to get creative and try out new recipes!